Archivos Latinoamericanos de Producción Animal, Vol 25, No 1-2 (2017)

Tamaño de la letra:  Pequeña  Mediana  Grande

Epigenetics in genetic improvement and animal reproduction

Maurício Machaim Franco


Epigenetics can be defined as the study of heritable changes in genetic function not related to changes in the primary sequence of the DNA molecule. The principal epigenetic phenomena are DNA methylation; posttranslational changes in histone proteins, such as methylation, acetylation, phosphorilation, ubiquitination
and others; some classes of non-coding RNA; and chromatin remodelers. Depending on the combination of these modifications, the chromatin assumes a configuration which is either more open (euchromatin) or more closed (heterochromatin), thus being related to the control of genic expression. Since these epigenetic patterns are susceptible to external factors, assisted reproductive techniques (ARTs) can affect them and consequently the regulation of genic expression, given that during the critical initial periods of development the gametes and embryos are subjected to the conditions of in vitro maturation, fecundation and culture. Furthermore, research has shown that external environmental factors during gestation can influence epigenetic patterns and thus, the health and performance of the progeny. Therefore, this information can be relevant to animal improvement. Finally, it is important that in the development and adaptation of new ARTs, epigenetic alterations of gametes and embryos be avoided as much as possible. In the context of livestock production, it is essential to elucidate if and how epigenetic patterns may be involved in resistance to diseases and productive traits.

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